In the past few years, countless conservative reactionaries have come into power, giving rise to right-wing paramilitaries, neo-nazi groups, and white supremacist terror. Far-right xenophobes like Trump in the US, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Erdogan in Turkey, Theresea May, Nigel Farange, Boris Johnson in the UK, Netanyahu in Israel, Putin in Russia, Macron in France, Scott Morrison in Australia, Xi Jinping in China, Duterte in the Philippines, Modi in India, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt, and Kim Jung-Un in North Korea have emboldened police, militaries, and far right movements. It’s given them more space and confidence to spew their hatred in public and commit hate crimes. We’ve also witnessed the continuation of dictatorships, such as Aleksandr Lukashenko in Belarus and the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia, military coups in places like Bolivia and Sudan just last year and a rise in paramilitarism in Colombia that has claimed the lives of thousands of civilians. However, we’ve also seen a rise in anti-fascism, anti-racism, and intense resistance to police and far right terror in the US and elsewhere. This article will discuss both and speculate on what we can do to grow this resistance.
In Brazil under genocidal Bolsonaro, killings of indigenous peoples and invasions into their territory have vastly increased.1 Vast swaths of rainforests have been burned to make way for massive cattle ranches, mining, and to destroy evidence of illegal logging. Some indigenous groups have mounted resistance, such as the Guajajara Forest Guardians, the Pyhcop Catiji (or Gavião) peoples in Governador,2 and anarchist groups and collectives in Brazil are fighting back too.3
Under prime minister Modi in February of this year in North East Delhi, mobs of Islamophobes attacked Muslim minorities, killing 53. Many were stabbed, shot, and set on fire. Some corpses were found in open sewers. While these types of attacks are not new in India, they are being made more frequent and severe by Modi whose Islamophobic rhetoric and policies (such as his citizenship law which fast tracks applications for immigrants of just about every religion except Islam) incites this kind of mob violence.4 Trump was visiting the PM at the time and this visit may have served as a catalyst for the attack.
In China under Xi Jinping, at least one million Muslim Uighurs have been beaten and interned in detention camps for their religion.5 The state calls these camps “reeducation centers.” The Uighurs homeland, Xinjang, (previously East Turkestan) under control of China since 1949 is designated as a “special economic zone” due to its wealth of natural resources, including natural gas, of which it is the largest producer in China. Their persecution is likely motivated at least, in part, by a desire to exploit the resources of their homeland and of course, their free labor.
Similarly, in Myanmar (formerly Burma) the Muslim Rohingya people are still experiencing a genocide, including gang rapes, arson of villages, schools, and businesses, and infanticide under the Myanmar government that started in 2017. They are targeted as they are a religious and ethnic minority and Islamophobia is rampant in the state. Aung San Suu Kyi, de facto head of state and ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ laureate has done nothing about the genocide. In fact, she has refused to even acknowledge the Rohingya are an ethnic group in Myanmar and denied that they are, in fact, experiencing a genocide under the rule of the Burmese military, police, and nationalist extremists. She has also met with numerous other far-right Islamophobes, including Boris Johnson, Modi, Duterte, and Mike Pence.
Duterte in the Philippines has turned the police forces there into deaths squad under the guise of fighting the “drug trade” and “terrorism.” 7,025 people were killed in the first seven months of his Presidency according to the state’s own police force6, and senator Leila De Lima estimated that the number reached 23,000 the following year.7 Duterte has given police a license to kill and encouraged them to make suspects fight back if they don’t resist arrest in an attempt to justify killing them.8 He has dismissed accusations of human rights violations as he refuses to acknowledge drug users as human beings,9 and he has offered to pardon any members of the military who commit rape.10
In Ukraine in 2014, a white supremacist militia was formed that was incorporated into the National Guard of Ukraine just a few months later. Their logo, the Wolfsangel, was one of the first symbols used by the 2nd SS Panzer Division in Nazi Germany during WWII. Azov Batatllion spokesman, Andrey Dyachenko told the press in 2015 that “only” 10 to 20 percent of the unit are Nazis.11 The battalion has been linked to numerous war crimes, including mass looting, rape, and torture.12 The Azov battalion isn’t the only far-right terrorist group supported by the state. In 2018 Ukraine’s Ministry of Youth and Sports funded another Ukrainian neo-Nazi group called C14 to promote “national patriotic education projects” in the country. Not all Ukrainian Neo-Nazi groups co-exist with the state in a happy marriage. Many have fought with police, increasing confusion about resistance in Ukraine. The term antifascism in Ukraine has largely been co-opted by pro-Russian nationalists and the right-wing (in much the same way the Soviet Union co-opted the terms “revolutionary” and “socialist” and disparaged all political adversaries as “counterrevolutionaries”) and to avoid confusion much of the left-wing in Ukraine doesn’t use the term anymore. The left is not dead in Ukraine but it lacks the resources the far-right there has to put up real resistance. It also lacks support from the broader population, and it has been ruthlessly targeted by these right-wing Neo-Nazi groups. As Crimethinc wrote in 2014, “The present social order will regenerate itself indefinitely until a form of resistance emerges that is capable of overthrowing governments without replacing them. This is not just a contest of arms; it is a clash between different forms of relations. It is not just a struggle for physical territory, but also for tactics and narratives—for the territory of struggle itself.”13
In Australia, PM Scott Morrison has done everything in his power to prevent the granting of visas to refugees. When Morrison’s Coalition came to power and he became the minister of immigration and border protection before becoming PM, the average length of time refugee children were kept detained increased from 115 to 349 days.14 He defended mandatory detention of refugee children as a “deterrent” for those considering illegal immigration. In reality there are plenty of deterrents already, such as risking death on the boat ride there. Of course, refugees wouldn’t make the perilous trip if didn’t feel they were in greater danger in their home countries. Morrison also passed the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment through parliament in 2014, which gave him the power to detain asylum seekers without charge and return them to their country of origin. His environmental policies are just as destructive. He has helped keep Australia the largest exporter of coal and claimed environmentalists have “an ideological, pathological fear of coal.”
With the trump administration in power, neo-nazi groups like the “Proud Boys,” Patriot Prayer, Atomwaffen Division, the Groyper Army, The Base,15 the “boogaloo boys,” Turning Point USA and other far-right, heavily armed militias and police organizations like the 3 Percenters, Oathkeepers, and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association have seen their numbers swell. They’ve also been given the confidence to leave their musty basements and online forums and attack people of color. In 2017 in Charlottesville, James Alex Fields Jr. ran his car into a group protesting the Unite the Right rally, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Trump responded that there is “blame on both sides” and “very fine people on both sides”.
In 2018 after Trump demonized Honduran refugees fleeing violence in Central America, far-right terrorist Robert Bowers attacked a synagogue that he believed was helping them, citing the “invasion conspiracy theory.” Just last year in El Paso Texas, white supremacist, Patrick Crusius, shot and killed 23 people at Wal-mart near the Cielo Vista Mall to “incentivize” Hispanics to leave the country and “remove the threat” of Hispanic voters, using much the same rhetoric Trump uses. A few months prior in Christchurch New Zealand, neo-nazi, Brenton Harrison Tarrant killed 50 and injured 40 chuchgoers at Islamic mosques. His manifesto sent to the prime minister and media outlets minutes prior to the attack called for the removal of all non-European immigrants “invading his land,” and purports the “white genocide” conspiracy theory. He also praised Trump “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose”16
In September of this year, even the Department of Homeland Security under Trump acknowledged in a draft assessment that white supremacists are the most “persistent and lethal threat” right now in the US.17 Meanwhile, Trump has done everything in his power to demonize anti-fascists and anarchists who are among the only people fighting against white supremacist violence. He has even attempted to classify anti-fascists (or ‘antifa’ for short) as “domestic terrorists” and the FBI has targeted numerous activists with perceived relationships to antifa in much the same way they targeted the Black Panthers.18 In their 2018 threat assessment report, the DHS office in New Jersey called “anarchist extremists” the third biggest terror threat below Al Qaeda.19 In 2019, they were listed as the second biggest threat. 20 Among the groups they’ve labeled as “anarchist extremists” is the National Layers Guild, an association founded in 1937 by lawyers and other legal activists that advocate for human rights.
Police and the state at large target far left movements instead of far more violent right-wing white supremacist groups because these groups are natural allies. In fact, many police and military are members of these white supremacist groups.21 Pete Simi, a sociologist at Chapman University found in a study he conducted that at least 31 percent of far-right terrorists have military experience.22 State militaries themselves are rooted in the idea of nationalism and racial superiority and the notion that borders drawn up via conquest need to be “protected” from outsiders of different nations, ethnicity, and race. The same argument can be made about police. Many cops have been exposed as Klan members,such as Robert Henderson, an 18-year veteran of the Nebraska State Patrol, and 70 years ago Klan members were extremely common in police departments. This should not be surprising considering the first police were recruited from runaway slave patrols just after slavery was abolished in the US. The Third Force Act, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, passed in 1871 imposed penalties on terrorist organizations and allowed for the use of military forces against the KKK. But in 1882 the Act was deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Today, the KKK is still not considered a terrorist organization by the FBI, (whereas the initial Black Panthers were) and membership in the group is legal. Because of this, when police in the KKK are exposed, they often claim they are simply expressing their “First Amendment” rights.
The far left seeks to abolish police and the military entirely and this is why the state fears them and persecutes them while ignoring far-right extremists. Even the far-right “boogaloo movement,” which has killed cops is not treated as seriously because they share the state’s right-wing and racist ideology. Their goal is to start a civil war and some police want the same. Many “boogaloo boys” are or were in the US military, such as Navy veteran Stephan Parshall, Army reservist Andrew Lynam, Air Force veteran William Loomis, and air force sergeant Steven Carrillo.
We have entered a new age of ignorance and sycophancy, one in which science is ignored and facts are what people feel is the truth. A neo-nazi sympathizer and reality TV show star has been our president for the past four years, and racist extrajudicial killings and lychings are now openly celebrated by famous far right figures. For example, on August 26th, Ann Coulter said she wanted Kyle Rittenhouse “as her President” on twitter23 after the little neo-nazi killed two people and wounded another who were protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man who is now paralyzed from the waist down.
Police are the stalwarts of white supremacy and the far right have made their “back the blue (police)” stickers, “blue lives matter” banners, and “thin blue line” flags ubiquitous symbols of white supremacy. These far-right figures are worshiped and their idolizers have no skepticism. They don’t think for themselves or question their masters. Many feel the political left has the same belief system but that they are just “too PC” to acknowledge “the truth,” which to them means white people are superior and that their identity is in danger because of the arrivals of immigrants and refugees. Ultimately, their belief system is rooted in irrational fear, insecurity, and misguided conceptions of masculinity. Trump lost the 2020 election by a wide margin and still he refuses the results and claims without proof there was cheating and that he “won by a landslide.” His remarks are all the “proof” his supporters need. This is the same person who told his supporters that ingesting cleaning products would cure COVID, and there are heavily armed right-wing militias ready to fight for him to stay in power.
Just how did we get here? White supremacy and right-wing terrorism are nothing new but why have we seen such an uptick in the past years? In many ways it feels we have been going backwards. As another example, for thousands of years scientists fought the religious fundamentalist teaching that the Earth is flat (The Old Testament says it is flat and supported by pillars) until it was accepted by just about everyone that the Earth is round. Now, like the “alternative facts” of our politicians, “flat-earthism” has returned along with climate change denial, opposition to vaccinations, disbelief in the existence of COVID-19, a general hostility to science, and absurd conspiracy theories about “QAnon,” George Soros funding every movement the right doesn’t like, and democrat led child sex trafficking in a Comet Ping Pong pizzeria. Conversely, anything that doesn’t conform to the world view of the far-right is just cast off as “liberal media,” “fake news,” or”liberal conspiracy”. Because of their ‘confirmation bias,’ they only seek information that affirms their own views, creating an echo-chamber.
Jingoism and demagoguery have been so successful as political tactics because they shift the responsibility for problems away from the ruling class who most common people never personally encounter and have a hard time combating at least divided, and they instead blame minorities who are far more visible and vulnerable. Ironically, the immigrants and refugees the far-right hates are only seeking asylum in predominately ‘white’ countries because these states bomb them or fund far-right paramilitaries and dictatorships in their home countries under the guise of “fighting terrorism,” forcing them to flee to the states where these policies originate. Meanwhile, white conservative youth are told that they don’t have a job, not because capitalism creates a race to the bottom wherein employers exploit the most vulnerable willing to work for nothing just to survive, but because minorities are maliciously “stealing their jobs” and conversely (and in contradiction) crossing the border simply to “commit crimes.”
The far-right lacks any form of self-awareness. They don’t see their own lack of skills, intelligence, respect for other people, education, and drive that keeps them unemployed but instead they blame immigrants for “taking all the jobs”. They’re single and sexually frustrated, not because they’re misogynist sociopaths who lack basic human empathy and respect for women, but because minorities “are stealing away the white women.” They don’t see race as a social construct but as something crucial to their identity that is being threatened by the presence of people who don’t look like them. But what are they so fucking proud of? A skin color, gender, and sexual orientation they don’t choose? A country founded on genocide, slavery, stolen land, and colonialism? They see themselves as better than people of color because they don’t understand the root of differences in skin color is simply adaptions humans made thousands of years ago to intense ultraviolet light in regions of the world with the most intense sunlight. They don’t believe in science at all, so how do you combat a belief system that isn’t rooted in reality?
The recent rise of right-wing extremism in America predates trump. In a 2009 intelligence study the DHS and FBI warned of a “resurgence” in right-wing extremism after the election of Obama. Far-right groups capitalized on the frustration racists felt over the election of the first black president. Their recruitment efforts were focused on “disgruntled military veterans…to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat.” Conservatives were outraged that veterans were implicated in the report, the DHS secretary apologized, and the unit investigating right-wing terrorism was essentially shut down,24 so these groups were allowed to grow by the state. The election of trump gave them the confidence to enter the mainstream, increasing their numbers and influence all the more. By 2018, the number of extremist hate groups in the US rose to over 1000.25
Despite the rise of far-right nationalism, jingoism, and support for the police state, we’ve also seen a large rise in anti-fascism, anti-racism, and resistance to police terror. The anti-police uprising that spread across the US this year after the killing of George Floyd was an inspiring example of resistance. In Minneapolis the third police precinct was burnt down. In Portland Oregon the Justice Center was looted and vandalized. In Reno Nevada the headquarters of Reno Police Department was destroyed. In San Antonio Texas a probation office was set on fire.26 Similar actions were taken in Paris France in solidarity with George Floyd and against the racist police in France. A police station in Paris was attacked, barricades were set up, and many fought with police.27
Statutes of confederate generals have also been toppled and far-right extremist groups have been chased out when holding demonstrations. The neo-nazi group, American Identity Movement, formerly known as Identity Evropa, just disbanded on November 2nd thanks to (at least in part) reporting by Unicorn Riot last year, which exposed members (including active duty military and police) identities and 770,000 messages from their chat servers.28 The far-right, Islamophic and xenophobic UK independence party lost all of its seats in the 2019 European Parliament election and membership is declining nearly to the point of collapse. Alt-right figurehead, Milo Yiannopoulos, has been kicked off of mainstream platforms like facebook, instagram, twitter, and youtube. He was forced to sell his website and he was barred from entering Australia in March after attempting to schedule a speaking tour there. Paul Joseph Watson was also banned from facebook and instagram. (Though it’s worth mentioning far-left anarchist publications were also, unfortunately, banned from facebook, such as Crimethinc.) The xenophobic and racist Identitarian Movement, a branch of Generation Identity dissolved in January of 2020. Paul Golding, leader of Britain First, a fascist far-right extremist group was imprisoned this year after for terrorism and last year was exposed for assaulting his girlfriend and another woman. He was also rejected from joining the conservative party. Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement has become a household topic and banners showing support are becoming more and more common. To keep this resistance alive, we can’t let the public forget about police violence or the violence of the state as a whole. None of this state violence will radically change with the election of Biden. We need to remind them every day and we can do that by targeting mass media outlets and continuing with our own direct actions.
Politically left movements are not nearly as well-armed or organized as most far-right groups. My hope is that the days of leftist revolutionaries like Nestor Makhno and Buenaventura Durruti are not dead. Although the revolutions they fought for were short-lived, the kind of freedom and equity they were able to achieve is inspiring. Current left-wing groups lack the kind of organization they had and we have to ask ourselves why that’s the case. One possible reason is that the more organization modern groups have, the less anarchic, spontaneous, and more hierarchical they tend to be. Fighting an organized institution like the state can be more difficult without some kind of organized resistance but then again organized groups can be more easily infiltrated by the state and other malicious actors than spontaneous mass actions, so perhaps there has to be a balance. Small affinity groups could increase their organization but remain only loosely linked with no formal connections. We also need to be as well armed as the right-wingers. These lunatics are talking about war and although it likely won’t come to that we need to be prepared for that. Many on the left lack the capital the far right has to buy weapons, and buying weapons legally can also be a more dangerous proposition for the left because gun ownership is often used against political dissidents as an excuse to target them and build cases against them. But arms can be “liberated” and concealed to be used in self-defense when needed. It’s also important we invest in legal advocates that can bail out comrades when they get kidnapped by the state.
A diversity of tactics have never been more important. We can take back space, (as the people of Capitol Hill in Seattle Washington did) create voluntary communes, free clinics, and mutual aid societies, showing people there is a better way to live. We can welcome immigrants and refugees into our own communities. We can fight police when we see them brutalizing people in the street. We can make fascists and Neo-nazis afraid to rally and hold space, and we can try to live more sustainably and in harmony with nature.
It is a great time for direct action and protest because in the context of COVID-19 we are forced to wear masks to prevent transmission. Before the pandemic, the state tried to prevent mask wearing as it helps conceal your identity and wearing a mask tipped off snitches and police that confrontation was coming. Now, no one thinks twice if they see you wearing a mask. This will make it harder for the state to identify protesters and activists they want to persecute and more protective respirators can prevent exposure to tear gas thrown by police. So the masks are silver lining to an otherwise difficult situation.
Anarchist organization is always done from the bottom up. But it’s important to remember most people don’t think that way. They are highly influenced by people at the top. So when far right lunatics enter power even when their policies don’t differ drastically from slightly more left of center politicians, their rhetoric matters. When they talk about the “threat” of immigrants and use similar xenophobic or racist language, it affects the culture, people’s behaviors and attitudes, and makes people who already agree with them feel they have a license to attack people of color. This recent rise in white supremacist violence would not have happened without this rise of the right-wing in power. One could argue this rise of right wing extremists in government wouldn’t have have occurred without people voting for them but that’s not entirely true. Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton in 2016. He’s only in power because of the electoral college and the US isn’t the only country that lets people already in power pick the president.
Biden at least won’t encourage white supremacist violence (outside of the state) the same way Trump does. It’s also likely he won’t try to dismantle DACA or bar immigrants from certain counties from entering the US as Trump has. However, we will likely see more covert anti-immigrant measures. Under Obama and Biden more than two million people were deported, including more than 400,000 in 2013 alone.29 Obama also approved a $1 billion, 4-year, no-bid contract to the largest for-profit prison company in America, CCA to hold female and young immigrants. There was no opposition from Biden about this. The contract promised to pay CCA $20 million a month, no matter how many migrants it detained. The one billion dollar CCA facility called the South Texas Family “Residential” Center is the largest immigrant detention center in the country and a site of many abuses, such as rape. And while the Obama / Biden administration didn’t have an official policy about separating detained immigrant children from their parents, it still happened occasionally under their watch.30
It’s possible the far-right will exploit racist outrage over the election of the first black woman as vice president, and even if they don’t, we will have a new set of challenges and many of the same challenges. Far-right violence in the streets will continue to be a problem without serious resistance. It’s unlikely Biden will take serious action against it. Biden’s foreign policy is also just about as hawkish as Trump’s. As vice President he supported war with Syria, arming Syrian rebels,31 and as a senator he voted for the war in Iraq in 200232. In 2015 he pledged Israel a fleet of F-35s33 and he has also called Israel “vibrant and free” despite the fact that Israel commits war crimes every day, there is massive segregation in Israel, child incarceration, and the IDF murders and tortures Palestinian civilians. Biden’s pick for secretary of defense, Llyod Austin, has had a hand in four bloody and unjust wars that have killed millions. From 2003-2005 he served as commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. As Commanding General, he was put in charge of all US and coalition forces in Iraq in 2010. In the 2011 he opposed US withdrawal and argued to maintain 10,000 troops in Iraq. As CENTCOM commander from 2013-2016 he oversaw the military operations in Iraq and Syria against ISIL and US support for Saudi Arabia in its war against Yemen, which has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. In 2015 during a Senate hearing, when pressed about Yemen he claimed he “wasn’t certain about Saudi Arabia’s plans” for Yemen but called the Saudis “great partners“34. In 2016 he became a member of the board of Raytheon, one of the largest military contractors in the world that makes the bombs dropped on Yemen. He has received $1.4 million from the company.35
Biden’s domestic policies aren’t much better either. In 1996 he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the recognition of same-sex marriages. He has also tried to cut medicare, medicaid, and social security a number of times and it’s likely he will try again as president. In 1995 he told the Senate,“When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well. I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time.”36 And his Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act resulted in massive increases in incarceration, provided $9.7 billion in funding for prisons, eliminated higher education for prisoners, and put 100,000 more cops on the streets. Biden has also condemned antifascists in much the same way Trump has, and on July 28th he said “arsonists and anarchists should be prosecuted,” conflating the two and implying the ideology of anarchism is criminal.37
Still, if we can convince democrats and other statists to come further to the left and abandon reformism, this administration may be easier to fight than Trump’s. Regardless of who is in power, we will need to fight state tyranny, capitalism, ecocide, and far-right extremism all the same and we can do that from the ground up. The more people who see the fight as necessary the better.
1 Folha SP: URU-EU-WAU-WAU: Terra indígena é invadida por grileiros em Rondônia. 01/13/19. http://rondoniaovivo.com/geral/noticia/2019/01/13/uru-eu-wau-wau-terra-indigena-e-invadida-por-grileiros-em-rondonia.html
15 Formed in 2018, the base is active in the US, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the UK and it advocates race wars to form white ethnostates.